04/05/2011 3:25PM

Uncle Mo's connections eager to see how he performs in crowded Wood Memorial

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Barbara D. Livingtson
There's expected to be no shortage of challengers willing to face Uncle Mo in Saturday's Wood Memorial.

OZONE PARK, N.Y – Uncle Mo could face as many as 10 opponents in Saturday’s $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and as far as the champion 2-year-old’s connections are concerned, the more the merrier.

“I want to get him around more horses,’’ owner Mike Repole said earlier this week. “In the Derby there’s going to be 20 horses. I’d like to see him get an outside post and not see him on the lead, but be able to rate and relax.’’

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In his first four starts, Uncle Mo has faced as many as nine opponents twice. In his debut, at Saratoga, Uncle Mo defeated nine horses, but was never behind any of them, jumping smartly out of the gate and pulling away from his early challengers – which included Wood starter Duca – to win by 14 1/4 lengths.

After beating five horses in the Grade 1 Champagne, Uncle Mo again had nine opponents in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, a race he won by 4 1/4 lengths at Churchill Downs. In the Timely Writer Stakes, on March 12 at Gulfstream Park, Uncle Mo beat four horses.

Todd Pletcher, Uncle Mo’s trainer, said Tuesday there could be some benefit to being in the starting gate that has a full field.

“In some ways we wouldn’t mind seeing a bigger field, it might give him more experience than a five- or six-horse field,’’ Pletcher said during a national conference call. “I think everybody knows he’s the horse to beat and the jockeys will ride the race with an eye on Uncle Mo throughout the race. From a sheer experience standpoint, it could be beneficial to have a bigger field.’’

Pletcher said that he is not looking to experiment in the Wood Memorial by making sure Uncle Mo is behind any horses early on. Thus far, Uncle Mo has raced behind just one other horse in his career – Riveting Reason in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. But twice Pletcher has worked Uncle Mo behind horses in the morning and said that race tactics on Saturday will be left up to jockey John Velazquez.

“We’ll see who all shows up in the Wood; ultimately where he’s placed in the race will be based on how Johnny feels like he should be position to try and win the Wood,’’ Pletcher said. “If it’s following another horse that’s fine, if it’s on the lead, that’s fine.’’

Uncle Mo was scheduled to arrive from south Florida on Tuesday, but the Tex Sutton flight was canceled due to concerns about inclement weather, including thunderstorms and heavy winds, during his scheduled morning travel time. The flight was rescheduled for Wednesday morning.

Pletcher said Uncle Mo was able to gallop Tuesday morning at Palm Meadows, but would not train Wednesday because of the early-morning flight.

Post positions for the Wood were to be drawn on Wednesday. Those considered definite to enter against Uncle Mo were Duca, Isn’t He Perfect, Norman Asbjornson, Preachintothedevil, Son of Posse, Starship Caesar, and Toby’s Corner. Possible starters include Arthur’s Tale, Full of Scoundrels, and Uncle Smokey.

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